Dolmen

Dolmen

To infinity... but not that far beyond.

Dolmen

Love it or hate it, but the Souls-like is a subgenre of gaming that is big business and has sunk its claws into thousands of gamers.  Just look at what will likely be GotY 2022… Elden Ring, so it’s no surprise that everyone and their granny are hungry for a piece of the pie.  And though it’s safe to say FromSoftware hold the Souls-like crown, that hasn’t stopped others from having a go though, and to be honest it’s been a mix bag of results so far.  The latest title to challenge for the throne is Dolmen, from the Brazil based Massive Work Studio, which takes a new spin on the genre as it tries to marry the worlds of sci-fi and Souls-like together.

Things start off well in Dolmen with an interesting tale that sees humanity reaching out into the stars and in doing so we have found crystals that let us travel through other dimensions.  As is the way with things there is a catch and this time round it has many legs and teeth and wants to rip you apart, as you find yourself on the hostile alien world of Revion Prime.  Beyond the set up the tale gets lost early on for the most part, as it’s never really told to you directly.  Instead you are drip fed to through a mix of audio logs and environmental storytelling.  It’s also not helped by plot points magically appearing when needed, dull lifeless voice acting and a general over use of sci-fi tropes.  But where the story fails to set the world on fire, maybe the gameplay will save the day… right?  Right?  Well strap in as it’s going to get a bit bumpy.

You start out by picking your class of character from bounty hunter to sharp shooter, each has its own style of combat, strengths and weaknesses.  However, if you look between the lines you can spot which traditional classes there are i.e., ranged or magic and the like.  From there you’re left to explore Dolmen’s world and find your way as everything falls into a very classic Dark Souls mould, but with none of the magic that made it such a hit.  You’ll have to keep an eye on your stamina bar, as each attack will spend a chunk of it, and managing it well will often see you win the fight, as you swap between ranged and melee weapons on the fly too.  To be honest the system is OK, but stiff – sometimes very wooden feeling – which doesn’t help when you are faced with a number of blindsiding difficulty spikes along the way, and we are talking almost vertical spikes at times.

Given you can’t really ease the pressure in any real way, it quickly sees Dolmen becoming a real grind instead of an epic battle of attrition and skill against a boss.  You only have two real options to overcome it:

  1. Backtrack and grind out levels and gear, or
  2. Keep at it long enough for the bosses AI to break.

Sadly, this was an option that came up way to often over my time with the game as the AI is a rough as a badger’s backside.  Like most Souls-likes you’ll get to level up along the way, as well as using a crafting system, but there is a kicker here as it can only done by heading back to your ship and not at the games version of bonfires.  This is a HUGE misstep in core design.  If that wasn’t enough the overall level design is poor as there are puzzle like areas with zero pay-off.  It makes everything stink of being lengthened to just milk your time, plus checkpoints are very poorly placed, which is just not welcome in this day and age at all.

There is also a sort of summons system, where you can spend crystals to bring in a bit of help, but only at bosses and this feels like yet another HUGE misstep.  The game could have been a lot more fun and interesting, if you could have done more in co-op.  Visually it’s not great (saying dated and muddy is being kind in a way), and this bleeds into the audio design with the soundtrack being extremely lightly used and sound effects just not balanced right.  Dolmen on paper feels like a winner, but in reality it is like a forgotten relic from the early 2010s.  Bearing in mind we live in a world with Elden Ring and a thousand other Souls-like games out there that are better built and ultimately fun.

An Xbox review copy of Dolmen was provided by Massive Work Studio’s PR team, and the game is available now on Xbox, PC and PlayStation for around £40 depending on platform.

The Verdict

4.5Poor

The Good: Fresh spin on the genre

The Bad: Dated on all fronts | Visuals | Gameplay | Systems

The following two tabs change content below.

Stuart Cullen

Scotland’s very own thorn in the side of the London gaming scene bringing all the hottest action straight from The Sun… well… The Scottish Sun at least, every week!

Latest posts by Stuart Cullen (see all)


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.